At the end of the 1941 John Huston film The Maltese Falcon, based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, Sergeant Tom Polhaus asks Sam Spade about the heavy, black statuette of a falcon that was the cause of all the mystery and murder.
“Heavy,” he says. “What is it?”
Our hard boiled detective, Sam Spade, replies, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”
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I Write the Class:
Questionnaire for the Beginning of a Composition Class
Major (or possible major):
1. What kinds of texts do you like to read and why? (Be specific about forms, for example status updates on social networks, comic books, or scientific articles, as well as genres, such as science fiction, mystery or autobiography.)
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Steer your students away from the question “What does The Waste Land mean?”, a question that still baffles literary critics. Instead, get them to ask “What does The Waste Land express?” Rather than getting them to interpret the poem; have them experience it. A four day course of 90 minute classes, for high school and undergraduates, based on a theoretical framework laid out in my essay “What The Waste Land Expresses: An Experiential Approach to T. S. Eliot’s Poem.”
Forests have fallen to explain The Waste Land. And yet, many readers express frustration, which never fully goes away, no matter how many papers and books they read. Once someone begins to read the poem, it is difficult to know where to stop: the preface, the note on the text, the poem itself, the author’s footnotes, the editor’s footnotes, the sources alluded to, the literary criticism, the guides, the biographies, the bibliographies, the early drafts? There is no back cover to this book. One could go on reading The Waste Land until the Holy Grail was found.
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What are the earliest instances of metafiction, or fiction about fiction? I don’t know much about early Chinese literature, but the story I told of the invention of writing in Hunters, the First Readers to Write a Story could be called metafictional, since it is a story about the invention of writing itself.
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